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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Time-Shifted Train Wreck

Oh, your 2012 Mets. They bite and claw and fight and come back, so you can never ever give up on them. It’s an endearing quality in a team, particularly one pegged as a second-division outfit.

Oh, your 2012 Mets. The second you get giddy, they crash and burn, leaving you in the fetal position. It’s an aggravating quality in a team, particularly one you desperately want to believe in.

Some games are ones you’d like to immediate flush out of memory, never to be spoken of again. This afternoon’s debacle would be a prime example.

Unfortunately, part of being a daily blogger is having to write with posterity in mind. So bear with me for a minute, while we go back into the abyss and look down.

The horror, the horror….

I don’t know if this is better or worse, but we saw this game on tape delay, TiVoing it so we could go to Mother’s Day brunch and making our leisurely way across lower Manhattan before heading home, with a web/social-media blackout strictly enforced. Usually I find that tape delay robs a game of its tension — knowing what I’m seeing isn’t live makes things sag in my mind — but today’s game was good enough that I was riveted. There was the weirdly jovial Carlos Zambrano, smiling genially at anyone and everyone even after falling behind 2-0. There was David Wright snagging a heat-seeking missile from Hanley Ramirez, which almost tore off his arm and turned him around nearly 180 degrees. Wright coolly waited for physics to fail to hurl him into short left field and threw Hanley out. There was Jon Niese, pitching gamely around occasional trouble and winning a terrific matchup with Giancarlo Stanton, from whom more was unfortunately to be heard. And there was Justin Turner, once again turning in a terrific at-bat against Heath Bell. This one wasn’t quite Dunstonesque, but it was still pretty good: Turner knew Bell’s curve ball could be more or less safely ignored, and worked Heath to a full count, got his pitch and rifled a double to right for a 4-2 Mets lead.

Bedlam! Excitement! Why, just three outs from Frank Francisco, and we’ll be headed merrily home….

Nope. The bottom of the ninth was a slow-motion train wreck, ended definitively and by then somewhat mercifully by something very loud and very fast.

When did you know we were screwed? When Emilio Bonifacio hit third? When Todd Tichenor decided John Buck deserved a couple of extra strikes for an afternoon’s worth of warm companionship and witty repartee behind home plate? When you saw Greg Dobbs fit his custom-designed helmet over his horns? When Manny Acosta came in? When Hanley Ramirez walked? When Austin Kearns got hit? When Stanton dug in with the big Red Grooms Pachinko thing whispering to him a la Todd Hundley and the Coors Field upper deck?

I can’t remember exactly when I saw Doom waiting at the door. All I know is that as the ninth cratered, I started scrubbing dishes, neatening piles of magazines and returning household objects to their proper places. That’s my instinct once the DEBACLE warning light is lit — perhaps to extract something positive from a bunch of negatives, or because long ago having cleaned up the apartment made me less likely to throw things in a fury.

I thought Frank Frank deserved an asterisk for Friday night’s failure: Stanton hit a ball so hard that Ronny Cedeno felt lucky not to have been in front of it, Francisco got Sanchez to fly out, Bonifacio smacked a hit through a drawn-in infield, Francisco struck out Buck, and Dobbs’s game-winner came on a broken bat. That’s a fair amount of buzzard’s luck there.

Not so this afternoon — he was awful, with Tichenor’s magically shrinking strike zone unfortunate but not an excuse. Frank Frank’s ERA is now 8.56. In 2012, that just means he’s a member of the endangered species known as “closer” (Bell’s ERA is 10.03), but that’s little comfort right now.

Honestly, it was a kindness that Stanton brought the game crashing down in regulation. It was obvious the Mets weren’t going to win this one, that the Ghost of Soilmaster had them by the neck again. The only question was how they would lose. On a Jose Reyes bleeder that rolled away from the fingertips of a sprawled Jordany Valdespin in 10? On a HBP by Bobby Parnell with the bases loaded in the 11th? On a fielder’s choice with Bonifacio beating the relay throw to Daniel Murphy by an eyelash in the 12th? It was going to be something soul-shriveling and awful, as any Mets fan who’s watched innumerable Miami horrors knew. Given that, it might as well have been Giancarlo Stanton, in the ninth with the wound still fresh.

And now posterity has been satisfied, and we shall never speak of this one again.

16 comments to Time-Shifted Train Wreck

  • RoundRockMets

    Shrinking strike zone aside, Francisco’s behavior as he got pulled was disgraceful. Selig needs to stand up for his umpires and establish good order, decorum and discipline.
    I think a 125 game suspension is about right. Do it, Bud.

  • open the gates

    I’m starting to wonder if the Mets acquired Frank Francisco as their closer because they thought he was a cross between John Franco and Francisco Rodriguez. (Wrong!)

    Memo to Mets: If you come across an unsigned young reliever named Jesse McGraw, grab him. Fast.

  • Steve D

    Package Ike Davis for a closer…Murphy plays first for nect 10 years, Turner to second.

    • Dennis

      OK…..which closer in MLB who is automatic in the ninth would that be?

      • Steve D

        There is only one closer who is automatic and he is out for the year…Capps may be available…there are several setup guys who look interesting…Cook on Oakland could become a good closer…you have to work out a package while Ike still has some value. First might be Murph’s best position.

        • Dennis

          Yeah…they might look interesting…but they might be average just like 90% of the closers out there. Even though Ike is struggling (he did basically miss an entire season), it would be foolish to send a potential 30 HR mainstay at first for a guy who could blow up anytime.

  • Dave

    If you told me last October that most of Alderson’s off season attention would be focused on the bullpen and that by May the reliever I’d be most confident in would be Bobby Parnell…well, I don’t need to finish that sentence, do I? The Mets should retire #46, not to honor anyone, but because everyone who wears it is ultimately a disaster.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Suspected trouble was afoot Top 7 when Terry called an unhappy Niese back to the dugout (greeted by Ike saying “bullshit” if I read my lips correctly). A tough call for sure, and one that makes the National League way more fun than its counterpart, but thoughts of “why is he pulling Pelfrey?” were still too fresh. When the Marlins tied it before we recorded an out: THAT’S when I knew we were screwed.

  • Dak442

    Umpires are human and occasionally screw up a call. Tichenor seemed like he was doing it on purpose, repeatedly, as if he had money on the Marlins, or Francisco dated his sister and never called her again.

    I was glad to see Francisco go after that incompetent moron. When players suck, they get sent to the minors. It’s unfortunate that umpires don’t face the same consequence.

  • March'62

    Glass half-full: In Philly and Miami – could and should have won all 6, won 4. Gotta take that. But still…….how does Hanley Ramirez take fast balls right down the middle by Manny Acosta and get it called balls? Has he earned Barry Bonds status already? But bygones. I trust Terry to have the team fired up and ready for the homestand. LGM!

  • eric b

    Well, I was at this game…and it was a fun one to be there for, until the bottom of the 9th, of course. I was sure Francisco was going to blow the save as soon as Bonifacio hit it in the gap (it was a triple off the bat…no need to watch him running).

    Then, I was thinking extra innings when Acosta got two outs. As soon as he hit Kearns though, I turned to my wife and said, “This one isn’t going to extras…” One pitch later, the lights were pulsating, the marlins were rotating around the sculpture, the roof was opening, and Reyes was dancing around in glee for the wrong team.

    Francisco/Acosta need help. Ramirez wasn’t much better.

    Aargh.

    Still, it was a weirdly cool place to see a game.

  • Guy Kipp

    This kind of stuff is going to keep happening as long as starting pitchers, even when they’re throwing the ball well, are pulled after six innings or less.
    Depending on three or more innings from this bullpen every day is asking too much.
    Expecting those solid 6-inning outings from Niese, Dickey, Santana and Gee to be 7-inning outings instead, is not asking too much.

    • open the gates

      In the first Met game I ever attended (OK, second – it was a doubleheader), Mike Torrez pitched ten innings of shutout baseball. Ten innings. And that was near the end of his career.

      And somehow, with all the pitch counts, it seems like the pitchers still wind up on the DL now as frequently as they did thirty years ago. If not more so.

      I, for one, would love to see some more complete games. And I don’t want to see Manny Acosta unless there are ten runs or more separating the Mets from their opponents. Either way.

  • Joe D.

    Sandy Alderson and Omar Minya both have one thing in common: they put together terrible bullpens.

    The Mets had good middle relief on the 06 club yet Omar dismantled it and brought in a new crew to set up for Billy Wagner led by Schoenweiss that was awful.

    In 2010, the bullpen was one of the Mets few strengths. A new one was put together led by D.J. Carasco to lead to KRod and we know how that worked out.

    Then a revamped one again in 2012 to set up for a closer we no longer had and except for a few early season spurts, it has been a nightmare.

    One thing that Sandy has proved that just like Branch Rickey said to Ralph Kiner when he wanted more money, we can have a bad bullpen with money or without it.

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